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Sci Tech    H4'ed 9/25/15

Rules & Regulations About Electricity, Electronics, Wireless Devices, Electric & Telecom Infrastructure: A Study Guide

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What are regulations, and why do we need them?

When we instruct children to look both ways before crossing the street, we introduce them to a safety regulation.

As cars become common, we required manufacturers to install windshield wipers, seat belts and air bags to make them safer. We required special seats for children. On roads, we set speed limits and created intersections with stop signs and stop lights.

Indeed, whenever a product or service is introduced to society, what do people concerned about their health and our environment want to know:

1. How was the product's safety determined?

2. Did regulators notice any hazards that occur from exposure to the device at a certain distance, over a certain length of time, or if exposure occurs in combination with another product or service?

3. Do pregnant women, infants, children, the infirm, people with medical implants, workers or wildlife require different protection when exposed to the product or service?

4. If we don't want a product or service in our environment or municipality, what choices do we have?

When have regulations around hazardous products changed?

Several decades after people became aware of harm caused by cigarette smoke, including second-hand smoke, FDA regulations began to prevent cigarette manufacturers from advertising to children. Restaurants and other areas of public accommodation created non-smoking areas and eventually banned smoking altogether.

After people learned that pesticides and herbicides can harm, they banned their use on soccer fields.

Federal agencies began creating regulations in the 19th century at the instigation of railroad tycoons, whose motives weren't exactly motivated by public health concerns. For a fascinating history, check out anthropologist Jane Anne Morris's " Sheep in Wolf's Clothing."

How do federal agencies regulate electronics and wireless devices?

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Katie Singer works on public policy with the Electromagnetic Radiation Policy Institute. A medical journalist, her books include The Garden of Fertility; Honoring Our Cycles, and An Electronic Silent Spring: Facing the Dangers and Creating Safe Limits. 

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